I learned to snowboard something close to 14 years ago. It was one of those sports I learned fairly quickly, and the excitement that came along with it kept me going back to play again and again. I didn’t dedicate enough time to get to more than perhaps an advanced beginner status, but I got to the point where I could do what I wanted and didn’t fall often.
But then other things took more priority during the winter. Time passed, and before I knew it, it had been 10 years since I’d touched a snowboard. What I kept in my mind was the level of boarder I’d been way back when. So when I got the chance recently to refresh my shredding skills in Aspen, I expected to jump right in where I left off.
I knew that there would be a fair amount of character-building moments—where I’d have trouble with something that I thought I mastered before. The entire time, I said to my friends and instructors that even if I made the smallest amount of progress each day, I’d be happy. Internally, that was a hard goal to maintain. I wanted to be awesome and I wanted them to see. Of course it was unrealistic. Even silly. But that’s what I craved.
The first day at Snowmass was smooth sailing. Even though I had to re-learn things I thought I already knew, it felt fairly easy. So when it came time on the second day to pick a goal, I decided I needed to skip from green runs to blue, so I could meet my super-skilled skier friends at the pop-up Veuve Clicquot bar on Aspen Mountain near the end of the day. My progress was far from smooth. I fell what seemed like a million times. My friends always seemed to show up for encouragement right after I’d taken a particularly rough spill, or when I was sitting on the snow—which made me feel like a huge dork. But I also made a little bit of progress and got to the champagne bar.
When the third day of my boarding refresher weekend came, any amount of progress vanished. I let all the spills from the day before erase my confidence. I couldn’t remember simple things because I was afraid to fall. I wanted to quit. In the afternoon, I couldn’t imagine telling my friends about what a hard time I’d had without tears stinging my eyes.
It took more than a few moments, but I eventually remembered how long it took me to master other sports and activities. I let the bad experience motivate me to get out to Buttermilk on the fourth day and commit to the goal I had in the beginning: Even the smallest amount of progress is a win.
A couple of weeks later, I still have some bruises from my weekend, but no longer a bruised ego. I’m OK with being a beginner snowboarder again, and I can’t wait to get back out there.